At #775 in the ATP rankings, Marcus Willis was an unlikely qualifier into this year's Wimbledon main draw field. If not for a nudge, some good old fashioned hard work, and a love for the game we may not have been able to witness his rise through the qualifying tournament and into the main draw of 2016's third Grand Slam event. I will let you read the story above for yourself, but there are a few take-aways that all players can glean from Willis' story.
Hard-work is a pre-requisite
There are no guarantees that if you work hard you will achieve your goals. This is one of the most challenging aspects of sport; the unknown. However, hard work is the pre-requisite to the "opportunity" for good things to happen. Willis grinded it out in various European leagues leading up to June, which ultimately allowed him to get the last spot in the PRE-QUALIFYING. From there he advanced into the Qualifying tournament, and subsequently was the last entry into the Main Draw. When the pre-requisite of hard-work is met and the opportunity arises, good things can happen.
Prepare as though the opportunity is coming
The sports world is full of great examples of athletes who take full advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. Tom Brady comes to mind immediately. His desire drove him to prepare each day as it was going to be the first day he could start proving everyone wrong. When the opportunity came he was physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to pounce. We shall see if Willis can make a splash at this year's Wimbledon, but even if he doesn't, the fact that he was coaching at a country club for most of the year and was able to get into the main draw is inspiring. Willis was preparing himself for this stage months ago, when the reality of getting to this point was a far-fetched dream. But here he is, getting ready to take advantage of the next opportunity.
Surround yourself with positive and honest people
At some point you will doubt yourself and your path, and when this time comes look to your inner circle for inner strength. Sometimes players need to borrow someone else's positive energy, or maybe get a kick in the rear to get across the void. Latch onto people who can inspire you, motivate you, challenge you. Surround yourself with family/friends/players/coaches who have high goals like you do and will be honest and direct when needed. One of Willis' friends challenged his intentions to give up his playing career and coach tennis in the US, telling him he was "an idiot and should keep going." The nudge was received.
Accept that the journey will bend at times
There is no straight shot to achievement. Look at a road map; do you think the engineers planned it that way? No, but they had an end result in mind and it was just a matter of solving the variety of obstacles they faced along the way. Approach your own journey in a similar way. Develop a plan and have an end result in mind, but be ready to adapt, to grind it out, to problem-solve regardless of the challenge. If you accept the fact that your journey will bend at times, you will be better prepared for when it actually does.